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New York
Skylight at Moynihan Station, 421 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY
March 4, 2014 - March 9, 2014

What Makes the SPRING/BREAK Art Show So Different, So Appealing?
by Natalie Hegert

The SPRING/BREAK Art Show inevitably feels like a huge art school party. Maybe because it’s held in a school. But also because of the almost cliquish camaraderie among the exhibitors, the artwork packed halls, the crowded downstairs bar area, and the perennial pack of artist-types chain-smoking outside. Having gone to grad school in NYC, it seems like I always run into people I know at SPRING/BREAK, either exhibiting, curating or just checking it out (because they know someone else who is exhibiting or curating there). As one person I talked to put it, SPRING/BREAK operates much the same as a Wes Anderson film, with a core group of recurrent curators and artists introducing new curators to each other. In this way, SPRING/BREAK manages to present a cogent, if uneven, portrait of what’s happening now in art in New York City.

Each room in the Old School on Mott Street is given over to a curator, so walking through the building you encounter mini themed shows, related to the overall curatorial conceit (this year’s: Public/Private). Each arrangement offers an opportunity for reflection, to find something deeper. And while many of the artists here might be destined for that particular New York brand of obscurity (yes, there is such a thing), there’s always the chance that you’ll see the work of the next generation of break out stars. And, unlike most other art fair week offerings, SPRING/BREAK gives the viewer a glimpse into the styles and experiments of a promising group of new curators. How the curators respond to the unique architecture of the building is certainly one of the most intriguing aspects of the show.

On the occasion of SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2014 I talked with three participating curators – Maureen Sullivan, Chris Bors, and Collin Munn – about their projects, their involvement in the show, and inquired of each, what makes the Spring Break Art Show so different, so appealing?


Cate Giordano as Stalker-Rabbit; Screentests for STALKERPOOH, A Wallabout Oyster Theatre project by Eve Sussman & Simon Lee; Photo courtesy of the artists.


Maureen Sullivan, curating Fall on Your Sword, Sarah Bereza, Eve Sussman and Simon Lee

Can you tell us a little bit about Private Drive-In by Fall on Your Sword?

I originally worked with Fall on Your Sword (Will Bates) for the first SPRING/BREAK in 2012- it was their entry into the art world from music and performance – and then, and every year since, they’ve created the most incredible interactive works related to the theme. This year for PublicPrivate when I brought up the concept of a Drive-In, thinking we could show an old B horror movie that Will Bates' parents met through, Will and painter Sarah Bereza took it to a whole other level. They bought and towed an old VW car to the site. Sarah worked in a freezing cold garage at Old School for almost a week painting, upholstering with lips, eyes and faces, and Will brings his composing and sound design expertise to tweak the car to become an interactive and sensorama object. Pressing the flashing red button on the steering wheel activates the continuous loop of movie clips beginning with awkward first dates and heating up to more amorous scenes as the original music soundtrack escalates to climactic proportions and the car revs up in a sensorama experience.  

To me, the Drive-In has always been the ultimate expression of private/public and the marriage of two things Americans hold dear – cars and movies. Isolated and private in your car with the freedom to make-out, sneak beers, and talk without getting shushed, you were also part of a community mingling in the shared experience. 

Your project also includes a live performance element. What can we look forward to in that?

Eve Sussman and Simon Lee are the most established artists in SPRING/BREAK, since her break out in the Whitney Biennial years ago, and they love participating in this art show to experiment and get back to their down and dirty roots. STALKERPOOH is a theatrical and cinematic event loosely inspired by the Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker and the A.A. Milne book The House at Pooh Corner that conflates the “Zone” and the “100 Acre Wood” and the themes of escaping daily life to get "lost in the woods" or "go to the zone" that pervades both stories. STALKERPOOH creates parallel characters that are sometimes human, sometimes anthropomorphic. (Hence the Stalker might be the Bear, The Professor could be Owl, the Writer a Donkey and so forth.) The plot suggested by both the film and the book details a journey and an adventure.

The set design is a provisional “Operant Conditioning Chamber” (a plexiglas box for studying animals and people) created in the Old School Boy’s Bathroom, complete with actors, animal heads, costumes, sculptures, props. The five days of the fair are used as a research and development period open to the public and on view as improvised theatrical installation.

The performers and cameramen are in the box. The audience is outside. The windows change the relationship between the actors and the public giving them a sense of privacy in the room. Simultaneously the audience has a feeling of ordained voyeurism that transcends the usual performer-viewer relationship. The box is a reference to “the room” in Stalker, the ultimate goal the characters are questing for, where all their desires will come true.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you've participated in every SPRING/BREAK so far. How did you get involved?

I met Ambre [Kelly] and Andrew [Gori] a few years ago through a friend and curator Natalie Kovacs − and that seems to be the way things evolved with Spring Break, each curator introducing others with the decisions then based on the submissions each year. We do seem to work in a Wes Anderson way, with a core group of curators and artists with most returning each year and the ensemble growing each time with new curators and artists bringing great energy. Almost every classroom, hallway, bathroom and garage are activated.

What makes the SPRING/BREAK Art Show so different, so appealing?

With SPRING/BREAK we get the space but there is no funding for the projects, so I’ve strategically and luckily chosen artists who are so talented and generous to create the whole environments on their own. And every year we have a blast. 

Scott Hug, Age of anxiety (Lydia Hearst), 2011, Acrylic and digital silkscreen on canvas, 30 x 24 inches; Courtesy the artist.


Chris Bors, curating Chris Bors, Carl Gunhouse, Scott Hug, Trong Gia Nguyen, Jacob Rhodes, Hrvoje Slovenc

What artists will you be featuring in Out There? What's the showstopper?

The artists are: Chris Bors, Carl Gunhouse, Scott Hug, Trong Gia Nguyen, Jacob Rhodes, Hrvoje Slovenc. I curated it so that all the work is equally important, which makes SPRING/BREAK Art Show so unique, because it is not about a single piece, but about an overall theme. This year it's focused on the concept of public/private. Personal obsessions, sexuality, faux violence, religion and political apathy are put on display in my curated exhibition Out There, which is part of the overall fair.

Is this your first time participating in SPRING/BREAK? How did you get involved?

Yes, it's my first time participating in the fair. Another curator, Yulia Topchiy, told me about it and recommended me. She's done great things in the past at the fair, so I was excited to be part of it this year. We're both on the second floor, so I look forward to seeing her room and hanging out.

What makes the SPRING/BREAK Art Show so different, so appealing?

SPRING/BREAK Art Show is definitely the most experimental of all the fairs in New York since all the mini exhibitions it hosts are based on a central theme, but it retains a high quality because of the artists and curators involved. The directors, Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly work really hard to put on a professional event that still has a DIY backbone.


Rin Johnson, Outside Baltimore, from the series Various Light Games (America), mixed media, 35mm color slide & Kaiser Slide Viewer,  2.5 x 3.5 x 2 inches, Edition # 2/3, image courtesy of the artist.


Collin Munn, curating Collin Munn, Rin Johnson, Michael Valinsky

You're presenting a collaborative multimedia project by yourself, Rin Johnson, and Michael Valinsky. Can you describe the project and its genesis and presentation?

Rin, Michael and I worked together to recontextualize 35mm slides that Rin has been making over the past two years in order explore the rapid move between public and private modes of receiving and experiencing information. Balancing inner and outer forms of reception in their work, Rin and Michael consider the public and private line as one mediated by physiological intake: a gushing out or pouring in of images, sounds, and text.

Together we selected eighteen slides from Rin’s archives to be viewed using analogue slide viewers installed along the walls of a former classroom closet, displacing the public viewing aspect of a slideshow, beaming light out to accommodate only one viewer at a time, in a retinal engagement which is both personal, and intimate. We then chose an additional twenty slides, that Rin duplicated several times and then distorted or nearly completely destroyed, creating a slowly melting heap of slides, marking the progressive dissolution of the possibility of image transmission over time.

In response to Rin’s slides, Michael created poems that draw from a wide array of sources ranging from the Communist Manifesto to email threads. On each day of the exhibition, we will release a new poem in the form of an audio recording, transmitting sound through earphones and into sonic canals.

I then brought selections of the poetry and images from the slides together as portable iPhone cases, in a nod to the ubiquity of “functional” art, allowing visitors to own a totally unique piece of the installation.

The conceptualization of the show arose from many discussions on how the mediums of photography and poetry, often considered relatively antiquated modes of creative expression, can be seamlessly married in a manner relevant to a contemporary context. An intimate knowledge of each other's work from years of collaboration and friendship enabled our collaboration to take shape in what felt like a very organic manner.

Is this your first time participating in SPRING/BREAK? How did you get involved?

This is my first time participating as a curator. I have attended all of the SPRING/BREAK’s thus far, and am continually impressed by anything touched by the fair’s directors Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori, so I knew at some point I needed to contribute a show. This year’s theme PUBLIC/PRIVATE was compelling and relevant to me yet open ended, and seemed a fruitful context in which to explore a combination of Rin, Michael and my work.

What makes the SPRING/BREAK Art Show so different, so appealing?

Having worked directly or peripherally at many art fairs now, I find SPRING/BREAK to be so appealing because it is one of the few fairs I am aware of where risk taking is fostered and encouraged. The economic constraints of participating in a more traditional art fair seem to often leave out emerging or perhaps not commercially viable talent. With many of those constraints gone, SPRING/BREAK allows art to largely run wild, creating a fantastic array of projects that are both in isolation and conversation with each other.


Natalie Hegert




[Image on top: Fall on Your Sword, Private Drive In; Courtesy of the artists.]

Posted by Natalie Hegert on 3/5/14 | tags: art fairs Armory Week spring break curators New York

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